During the entire ride to the hotel, the only other words he uttered were, “you’ll make sure that everything is in order.” This time is was more of a command rather than a request. I told him I would do my very best, and he surprised me when he shook my hand and thanked me.
When we arrived at the shabby cemetery she had chosen to “spend eternity,” to say that I was speechless would have been an understatement. It was unkempt and most, if not all the tombstones appeared to have been there for centuries. The plot marked for her was on the outskirts of the cemetery, which was just a hole in the ground.
I will admit that Harville intimidated me, and I was hesitant to ask if there would be any kind of marker. I decided that if nothing else, I could outrun him, so I took a deep breath and asked. “Not what she wanted,” he said. “She was very specific.”
I looked at him with what I’m sure was amazement and said, “but why? Everyone wants to be remembered.” Harville looked at me, shook his head and said, “not everyone.”
I think I was so overwhelmed with the whole ludicrousness of things, that it took a while to realize there were only three people at her funeral. I was there. Harville was there, and some pay by the hour preacher was there, doing his best to pronounce the words that he had obviously never seen in the Bible. He couldn’t even remember the usual “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” He stumbled around and was finally able to say something about “dust eventually turns into ashes.” I was thinking that maybe he was a little tipsy.
For some reason, I thought Parker would find that amusing, but I don’t know why. I realized that none of us had brought any flowers and mentioned it to Harville. “Not necessary,” he said. “She wouldn’t have wanted it.” Harville was a man of few words, but the words he did say definitely had an impact. He was succinct and to the point.
As we were leaving the cemetery, he said, “you do know that Parker had a sizable estate, don’t you?” I told her that I knew she commanded a high price for defending….”people.” That was the first time I saw even the most remote sign of a smile from him. He said, “yes…people.”
As I walked toward my car and he walked toward his taxi, he handed me his card. As I looked at the non-descript card, he said, “call me when you figure it out.”
“Call you when I figure it out?” Figure what out? What the hell does that mean?” I yelled those exact words as I watched him ride away. What was I supposed to be figuring out? She was dead. That was a fact. She had been murdered. That was a fact. She was a raging bitch. That was a fact.
I was at a complete loss as to exactly what I was supposed to “figure out.” I went on a thirty minute rant, calling him every name but a child of God, not to mention disparaging his intelligence, his character, his mother and every other shortcoming that came to mind.
When I got back to my office, my clerk said I had a message. “Okay,” I said. She said, “Mr. Harville called.” Again, she just stood there. I swear, sometimes trying to get any information out of her was like trying to get a response from a tree stump. “And?” I said.
“And, he wanted me to tell you that in his haste to leave town, he neglected to pick up the autopsy report for Parker Patterson. He wondered if you would be gracious enough to pick it up and overnight it to him.”
“Was an autopsy even done on her?” I asked. “Apparently,” she said. “Well, did the elusive and forgetful Mr. Harville leave an address by any chance?” I asked.
“He left a Post Office Box number,” she said.
I didn’t have time to deal with that crap. If he was so damn good, good enough to be listed in The Chamber’s Legal Library, how could be absentminded enough to forget something like a copy of an autopsy?
He was obviously upset about Parker’s death, but come on. Forgetting a vital piece of information like an autopsy report? There was no excuse for that kind of sloppiness. That was along the lines of forgetting to get a search warrant before finding body parts buried in someones’ yard.
I knew one thing. If he expected me to “tidy” up his omission, he was mistaken. I wasn’t going to do it. I asked my clerk to run over to the coroners’ office and pick it up, but just as she got to the door, for some reason I had second thoughts. “Never mind,” I said. “I’ll take care of it.”
As I was driving, Harville’s words kept running through my head. “Call me when you figure it out.” The more I thought about it, the more it pissed me off. I didn’t like innuendo, I didn’t like games, I didn’t particularly like puzzles, and I intended to divulge that in a rather insulting note.
Apparently, the coroner had been alerted that I was coming to get the report and it was ready when I got there. When he handed it to me, he said, “it’s pretty cut and dried. Knife wound was COD, but you already know that.”
“Anything else?” I asked. The coroner looked at me quizzically and said, “like what?” I told him that I was just curious. Then I asked him if he minded if I looked at the report. “Not at all,” he said.
I sat down and started reading what was a very brief report. I intentionally avoided the pictures. Even though I despised her on a certain level, I felt there was no need to intrude on private pictures of her exposed body.
There was the standard “unremarkable” description for every organ and extremity. It was noted that there was not one single flaw (aside from the obvious gaping knife wound) other than a small tattoo on the victims’ left hip. I didn’t give it much thought, put the report back in the folder, and told the coroner I would be on my way.
I had the audacity to ask him if he would overnight the report to Harville. At least I had the courtesy of requesting that he bill my office for the expense.
When I got into my car, I felt like a thunderbolt had hit me between the eyes. “A small tattoo.” I bolted out of my car and burst back into the coroners’ office, blurting out, “I need to know about the tattoo.” The coroner looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He clutched his chest and said, “what the hell, man. You almost gave me a heart attack, and I’m getting on up in years!”
I apologized and said, “I just need to know about the tattoo.” The coroner got the report, sat down and put on his glasses. Thumbing through his notes, he smiled and said “ah. It was four words.”
Déjà vu. Was I back at the office? Had he turned into my clerk? Finally I said, “what were the fucking words?”
He looked at me, cocked his head to the side and said:
To be continued____________________